Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Going-to-the-Sun Road 75th Anniversary

Happy 75th Birthday Going-to-the-Sun Road!!


From the Glacier National Park website:

"On July 15, 1933, a marvel of engineering was officially dedicated during a public ceremony atop Logan Pass in Montana’s Glacier National Park. On that date, the ‘Transmountain Road’ was officially renamed the Going-to-the-Sun Highway after the mountain that bears the name. It is no wonder that upon the road’s dedication, Glacier National Park’s Superintendent Eivind Scoyen described the Going-to-the-Sun Road as, “The most beautiful piece of mountain road in the world.

The construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) ushered in an era of partnership between federal agencies. In 1926, the Bureau of Public Roads, now Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed a formal agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) that began a working partnership at Glacier that continues today in national parks and other public lands throughout the U.S.


The Sun Road continues to serve as a national model for context-sensitive road design and construction that is both conscious of, and complimentary to, scenic landscapes as well as cultural and natural resources. In the 75 years since its completion, this scenic mountain road out of rock has taken countless visitors to the heights of the Continental Divide.


Now, the Sun Road is being ‘reborn:’ a comprehensive rehabilitation of this 50-mile National Historic Landmark and Civil Engineering Landmark is bringing much-needed work to preserve and protect one of Montana’s favorite suns.


In 2008, the NPS, FHWA and many partners and neighbors celebrate the vision of this engineering marvel along with the remarkable workmanship, spirit of partnership and overall dedication to the preservation of this treasured “Landmark in the Sky.”

video
(video from the Glacier National Park website)

Read More - Going-to-the-Sun Road: An Engineering Feat (pdf)
A great article from National Parks Travler: Celebrating Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road

Thursday, June 26, 2008

8th Conference on Fossil Resources

The other day in my post on the Cambrian Explosion conference Jerry reminded me that in 2009 we have another alternative for those of us who can't swing the trip to Bristol for SVP - the 8th Conference on Fossil Resources (or 8th Federal Fossil Conference). The last meeting was in May of 2006 in Albuquerque. The next meeting will take place May 18-21, 2009, in Saint George, Utah! They will be having workshops and field trips (I am sure those will be great, given that the area is great for paleo), with a proceedings volume being published for the meeting. There is a call for papers currently, and any that are pre-peer reviewed and submitted by November 30, 2008, will be included in the volume. "Presentations on management issues, and success stories between various organizations, individuals, and land management agencies are of particular interest."

A symposium on 'Advances in Late Cretaceous paleontology in the Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument' and the 2009 Utah Friends of Paleontology annual meeting will be held in conjunction immediately follow the conference in the same venue (May 22-23, the Dixie Center). The meeting will be open to anyone who would like to present research findings related to the theme. This should be very interesting. So many new and awesome things have been coming out of GSENM over the past 10 years or so.

As Jerry said best: "it will be a veritable paleo lovefest for those who find the dollar-to-pounds exchange rate to be too intractable, as well as for those planning to hit Bristol anyway but just can't get enough of paleo conferences!" So check out those links and start making your plans!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Allergies: part 2

An update on the allergies front. We took everything out of the bedroom and had the carpet cleaned. This actually helped. Some. I am still coughing and all plugged up but not near as bad as it was. So I have turned to Zyrtec as Tuff Cookie recommended. It is also working and helps me to fall asleep at night, which is great.

There is just something here that I seem to be allergic to. Trees, grass and weeds are all in bloom here, all of which I am generally allergic to. The Pollencast tree pollen count is moderate right now, the grass pollen count is very high and the weeds are moderate. Always fun. Hopefully it will get better soon! Thanks for the thought and comments!

Monday, June 23, 2008

An International Conference on the Cambrian Explosion

Since John and I are pretty sure we will not be able to afford to go to Bristol for SVP next year, we have found this alternative closer to home. Unfortunatly the field trips are already full, but luckily we hiked up to the Walcott quarry last fall. It was tough and I am not sure I want to do it again so soon ;)


An International Conference on the Cambrian Explosion

We invite you to attend a special Conference on the Cambrian Explosion to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Burgess Shale by Charles Doolittle Walcott. We cordially extend this invitation to all geologists, paleontologists, geochemists and biologists interested in the profound oganismal, ecological and environmental changes that occurred during the Precambrian-Cambrian transition. Morever, we think that this meeting would be of great interest to historians of geology and anyone curious about the origins of animals.

The meeting will be held at the Banff Centre for the Arts, August 4 - 6th, 2009. The resort town of Banff, located about 125km west of Calgary, Alberta , is one of the most scenic spots in the Canadian rocky Mountain National Parks and is only 80 km away from the discovery site of the Burgess Shale (near Field, British Columbia).

Conference website

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Awesome












Website of the week: http://controversy.wearscience.com/

Iowa, Illinois and Missouri Flooding is Visible from Space

"In early June, 2008 the United States Midwest was hit by a steady string of rainstorms. The precipitation completely saturated the ground and produced record flooding in many parts of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and other Midwestern states. Flooding was severe enough to exceed 500-year levels in several areas...." (continue reading here)A view of from space of the flooding and results of levee breaches along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. The large blue "lakes" in the "after" image are areas behind levees that were overtopped or breached. The water was then trapped behind the levee and could not reenter the river. NASA image from EarthObservatory.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Allergies

I am nearly unpacked and getting settled in my new place with John. The only bad thing is that there is something in our bedroom I am allergic to.No idea what it is either. Allergies are nothing new to me, since I am allergic to well over 25 different things. Unfortunatly they seem to be getting worse as I get older.
We figure its not anything from my old place, since I have never had any troubles before. We thought it was the bed, since it mostly kicks in a night when we go to bed. So we have been sleeping on the futon in the other room. We cleaned the mattress and bought a mattress bag for the bed in hopes that it would help. It didn't. We then took the bed out of the room, put the futon in the room, and still no luck - I again turned into a weazing, congested, asthmatic lump. So now it appears it is not the bed. Not sure what our next step will be. I guess we will take everything out of the room and see if it still happens. It sucks when your lungs/body has to be your lab for this type of experiment. I am exausted from moving, and still not back to full strength, after the bout with strep, and so the lack of sleep from getting sick every night is not helping any. Keep your fingers crossed for me and if you have any advice or suggestions PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE feel free to share them! I am sick of being sick!

Monday, June 16, 2008

I made it!

I am now in Colorado! For good!

This past weekend(ish) Kelty and I moved back to Colorado. I left Rock Island on Thursday, and not a moment to soon it sounds like, since they closed portions of I-80 in Iowa the next day! I stopped at two different gas stations between Rock Island and Iowa City (in Iowa) and none had gas. At first I thought they were just out of gas, which freaked me out a bit, but the power outrages were related to the flood. All across eastern and central Iowa I saw swollen streams and flooded fields. One area I passed had water less than a foot from the interstate and I realized if the river went up another foot or two it would be bad news for the interstate. Glad I left on Thursday and not Friday! I saw alot of debris (trees, propane tanks, trash, ect...) washed up against the interstate bridges and that was a bit unnerving! I did make it to Kearney, Nebraska that evening though, was was able to make pretty good time.

The next day I headed to Denver and made it there by 3. I even had time to go get a new drivers license (which was good since I got pulled over in Nebraska for "failure to signal" (BS) and luckily did not get a ticket for having an expired license). Then I drove to Parker where our wedding is going to be and met two of my bridesmaids for the food tasting for the reception. It was amazing food and the chief treated us amazingly, it was such a treat! I hope I actually get to eat some of the food the day of the wedding!

Saturday I was lucky enough to have out friend Pete help me load my u-haul, since John had other commitments that morning in Grand Junction. We easily got that loaded and then I had the rest of the day to relax with Pete and his family and meet their new baby! It was a nice relaxing afternoon. John came over with the field coordinator for the quarry this year, who was nice enough to drive my Blazer back to Grand Junction so I could drive the u-haul and John could take Kelty.

Sunday we had our engagment photo session, which was fun. We went to settlers park in Boulder and climbed on the flatirons (Pennsylvanian Fountian Formation) for a few hours. Then John and I took some time to walk around the Pearl Street Mall and had a nice 'lunch' at the Cheesecake Factory. It is really nice to be back together. I had pushed out of my mind how much I missed him so I could get through the last two months. I am glad we do not have to do that any more! We then went and picked up Kelty and headed over the mountains. We made pretty good time and got home last night in time for Kelty and Duma to get reacquainted and realize that they still hate each other.

The u-haul has now been unpacked, and the great merger of our things has begun. The cable guy is here to turn on my internet. Hopefully this weekend we will have a garage sale and everything will go back to normal.

STATS
Total gas purchased: $272.42
Total gallons filled: 67.25
Total miles driven: 1172
Most expensive gas purchased: $4.29 in western Colorado (Palisade) - runner up: $4.21 in eastern Colorado (Crook)
Most gallons filled:13.568
ABF U-Pack cost from Rock Island to Denver: $691
U-haul cost from Denver to Grand Junction: $209
Total cost of u-haul gas: $71.59 (18.360 gallons)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Badlands Trip Notes: Part 3

My field work fun had come to an end. I woke up with no voice and a horrible sore throat and plugged nose. I opted to stay in that day - I just felt rotten. I went inside and crashed out on one of the bunks, then went into town (Harrison - about 10 miles to the south) later that day. Soup and hot chocolat...The next morning was the beginning of the ende helped some, but the next day I was not any better and it had moved into my nose/sinuses and set up camp. So, once again, I missed another day in the field, plus the trip to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. I had a fever and spent most of the day sleeping in the bunk house. The next day my throat was better, but my head felt miserable. This was the day the student got to take a trip to Mount Rushmore and Hill City to visit the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research. I felt like crap on a stick but went so I could get meds and cell service so I could call the doctor to make an appointment for the day after we returned. I spent most of the day sleeping in th van, but did make it inside to see Pete Larson's cool Triceratops they are working on. Some great stuff coming from it and I can't wait to see it published! I then returned to the van for more sleeping. The next day was the last day of field work and I missed it!!! Being sick in the field sucks!!! I was none to happy about this, but I also had no energy to walk to my tent, let alone prospect. I stuck close to the bunk house, rested and read (see post on books, the best thing to come from being sick!).

The student who had found the two oreodont skulls the first day seemed to have a good eye. He found a weird skull on one of the days that I was sick (left). We think it is maybe a bear dog (Daphoenodon) or a creodont. After I got it prep'ed I am now leaning toward creodont (see below). The teeth look off to me if it were a bear dog. Would anyone out there like to venture a guess (or just tell me the answer??).






The students had to take their final exam in the bunk house this year because we were having quite a bit of rain. Every day that I missed field work it rained. All the students had studied pretty hard for the test and they did pretty well. Some students also opt to write a paper over an aspect of the White River Badlands (picked from a list we have), for more credit. This was a really good bunch of students. They were all very nice, sober (for the most part) and well behaved (especially compared to past years) and it was a nice change! I didn't feel like I was babysitting!
The next day we headed back to the real world. The wind in Nebraska was horrible, out of the southeast, and we had Yakama racks on top of the vans, so it was awful trying to keep the vans on the road (and scary at times!) Come to find out there had been straight-line winds and tornadoes the day before and we saw some of that damage. When we stopped for dinner in Des Moines we were disturbed to see that they racks had actually been moved by the wind! They had been on the right side of the van but were now in the center! Not a fun thing to discover. I was happy to be home, but it was rather bitter sweet, since I had missed so many days of field work and knew it would be my last trip as Hammer's research assistant. He and I get along really well and it has been really nice working for him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Badlands Trip Notes: Part 2

...The next day we worked an area called the "little badlands." This area has been good to us in the past, and I have gotten a good sized turtle from here. This day I was walking around and came across alot of coyote tracks (along with plenty of cow, pronghorn and smaller tracks - probably fox. It has been really wet there recently so the tracks were pretty fresh and well preserved). Alot of them, of varying size. I had been seeing some modern bones around, but had not thought much of it, since that had been common in this area before. I came around a corner and finally realized what I was seeing - definitly more than one individual in the area, multiple taxa, and probably some juveniles of one of them. I was cursing myself for not having taken my camera out that day. The curious part of me continued to follow the tracks and I rounded a corner and saw a nice medium-sized hole in the side of an embankment. It was pretty obviously a den, many tracks coming and going from the hole (but smaller tracks, probably fox). I stayed clear of it and kept going, following the larger tracks. I got a bit away and come across what was very obviously the coyote den! It was a mess. Lots of tracks of various size going an coming, once again, and a nice leg laying in the entrance. Not attached to anything, but a loose (probably pronghorn) leg, with plenty of scat all over the area. They were not very tidy. I really steared clear of this one!! No way did I want to piss off a coyote with little ones and fresh food!! I radioed it in and kept the students away from the area. I did score a nice pronghorn skull with both dentaries (probably had at least 20% of the rest of him there, but it is always hard enough to get modern stuff home in the van as it is). I am sure this gift was complements of the coyote family.

I caught up with Paul and spent the rest of the morning prospecting with him. We were not having much luck. I found a set of articulated ribs, but the rest of its body was long gone. I told Paul about the dens and we went back so he could see. We crested a hill just in time to see a little fuzzy head outside the medium-sized den! That was really exciting and it got the curious side of Paul and I interested so we headed towards the den. We sat pretty far away from it, but close enough that we could still see the entrance. We sat very still and waited. After a few minutes we saw some movement inside and for a split second I saw a fuzzy fox face that was only there for a moment before it faded back into the dark depths of its den. It was really exciting! We thanked her for the appearance and then left her to her day and we got about with our own.

About 10 minutes before it was time to round the group up and head out I looked down on the side of a gully and found a beautiful little oreodont skull! It is by far the smallest one I had ever found and is in great condition! (left- before prep, right - after prep)

That day we spent the the afternoon letting the students study for their test they would have at the end of the trip, clean their finds and generally relax (they have it so easy!). I headed into town with the TA's and Hammer for a trip to check my email at the library in Harrison (yes, I am addicted, but I had things that needed attention) while the others gathered supplies and watered themselves at the local bar. It had been a pretty good day. Little did I know that was all about to change!


Next post...wind, rain, and no fun.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Badlands Trip Notes: Part 1

I know I have been promising to write this for a while now, but things have been pretty hectic. Tomorrow is my last day of work at Augustana College and I will be hitting the road, Colorado bound tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. But more on that later...
I am splitting this post into a few days worth. Its too long to bore you with all at once ;) So keep checking back for "the rest of the story."

Augustana's Geology Department
takes a field trip every year (for majors and non) every year to Shalimar Ranch, which is in northwestern Nebraska for a "Fossils of the Badlands" field course. The land is privately owned by an Augie alum, Bordy Munson and his family. It is White River Badlands outcrops and we mostly work the Oligocene Brule Formation, and occasionally get into the Chadron Formation. (see former post)

The first day we head to Badlands National Park, where we camp for the first night. On the way there we had one of our TA's get a flat on his car, but this was the only hangup, which was nice. Hammer (my boss) and I drive one van, while the other two TA's (Nate Smith and Paul Brinkman) drive the other. This year we had 16 undergrads along for the trip. The second day of the trip we toured Badlands, trying to dodge rain storms. Badlands has a really wonderful paleontology exhibit now in their visitor center, and I urge you to check it out if you have not seen it before.

After Badlands, we head to Wall Drug. How can you not stop in the tackiest place on earth. We let the students have an hour here (mostly to find their "tacky gift" for an annual contest we have every year to see who can find the tackiest gift at Wall Drug, under $7. There have been some interesting submissions in the past). We then eat lunch, then hit the road again. We also stop in Rapid City to visit the South Dakota School of Mines Geology Museum. These stops are all to show students other work that is/has been done in the White River Badlands and to give them a chance to see the types of fossils we will be seeing. Both Badlands and the SDSM&T museum have excellent displays for this purpose. We then stop for supplies and return to road, making the Ranch in time for dinner.

A bit of background on the ranch. Augustana has been visiting for 26 consecutive years. The ranch is a stallion ranch that also has grazing cattle and great exposures of Brule Formation! We camp on the ranch, with a great area for a big fire every night (plenty of wood too!), and a bunk house that has running water, a bathroom (with shower!), fridge, and 2 sets of bunk beds!! We are truly spoiled!

It just happened that the second day of our trip (Badlands-Wall-Rapid-Ranch) was my birthday. I was on cook crew so my group and I made burgers that night and I was eating my dinner when Hammer burst out of the bunkhouse yelling all hell-fire and pissed about something to do with the undergrads getting on his nerves. I immediately go into assistant mode and try to get the group of students that are surrounding him to disperse before he blows a gasket. The next thing I know two of our recent geology grads are singing happy birthday and bringing me a cake!! The whole thing had been a diversion so they could get it ready!! Sneaky, but a very nice surprise. By that point I had forgotten it was my birthday!

The next day was our first day of field work. We headed out to a valley we call "Mesohippus Valley" (after the first fossil ever found there) and introduce the students to prospecting and set them loose. It was great to get out and stretch my legs and enjoy the sun and outcrops. I found plenty of loose dentaires, coprolites, and limb bones. I also found a Archaeotherium tusk and one oreodont skull, but it was pretty beat up. The students were all excited to be cut loose and seemed to be doing pretty well. One kid found two oreodont skulls before lunch! After lunch we prospected another small set of badlands, which I always think of as the turtle graveyard, since that is what I most often find. Giant turtles (ok, its a tortise, I know...Stlemys nebrascensis typically), plastron up, often missing the plastron all together. They look like prehistoric salad bowls!

The next day we headed to another set of badlands further back on the ranch and prospected that area. All I found were alot of holes. A certain "commercial" group pays a fee to prospect on the ranch and they often work this area. Last year I found a nice "pocket turtle" (a turtle that is small enough to fit in your pocket, not sure what taxon he is, he's not cleaned yet, sad to say), but this year all I found was 'turtle bits' and the occasional coprolite.

Near lunch time I started to hear bangs. At first it sounded like someone throwing rocks at something metal, but then I realized they were what I did not want them to be - gun shots! I called Hammer on the walky-talky and we did not have any trouble gathering the kids up, since they were mostly already at the meeting spot for lunch. We ate and continued to listen, then on the far ridge I spotted two atv's heading in our general direction (as well as you can out there). By this time lunch was over and the students were heading back out. Hammer and Nate went in the atv's general direction to see what was up. Long story short - we had to get out of there, and fast!! The story includes a large dog and two cowboys with guns, and it is destined to include a bobcat and bear in the story by the time it becomes legend with the student body. I started hollering at the students to gather them up. They, of course, were very confused, but all complied and moved fast to get back to our meeting spot. Within five minutes we had them all gathered (I was impressed!) and we headed back to the vans. We went and worked some sections between the vans and where we had been for the rest of the day, but the area was sparse and the students were beat after their second day outside in the sun. Most of these kids are not use to being outside hiking in the sun, so we try to not kill any of them. :)

Next post...modern mammals and a nice find!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Book reviews: the result of two weeks without internet

When I was in the field this past week (almost two) I had the chance to read (alot, more on that tomorrow). I had taken two new books with me, which I plowed through in less than 13 days. So I thought I would tell you a little bit about them in case you were interested.

Swine Not?: A novel, by Jimmy Buffett
This is a cute story about a pig and her family. She lives in a fancy New York City hotel and is constantly being hid from the hotel cook who hates animals and wishes to cook her. The pig is one a mission to find her brother, and the story is told from the pig and one of the children in the family's point of view. The official summary is: "When Southern belle Ellie McBride moves her twins from Vertigo, Tennessee to New York City, they wouldn't dream of leaving behind the family pig Rumpy. But the posh hotel where Ellie has found work (and living space) has "No Pets" writ large on its portal. So hiding Rumpy from the hotel staff---especially the ultra-carnivorous hotel chef, who would like nothing better than to transform their pet into pork roast---becomes imperative." (link)

I decided to read this book for the obvious reason - it is written my Jimmy Buffett, of whom which I am a loyal fan. It was no where near as long as his past books (256 pages, at least it felt shorter) and the chapters were very short. The story was easy to follow and almost reminded me of a young adults book (not that that is a bad thing, it was just an easy read), and was adapted, in part, from his friends true troubles of hiding her pet pig in a fancy NYC hotel. I am an animal lover, so I understand how the family in the book feels like it must go to great lengths to protect their hoofed family member. This book is an easy read for anyone, and would be a great story to read to kids, since the chapters are short, the tale is fun, and the characters are easy to relate with. It is not your typical Jimmy book however with drunk sailors/cowboys, tropical places, and lyric references dropped in random places. Still a good read however.

Forget Me Not, by Jennifer Lowe-Anker
"
In September 1999, climbing legend Alex Lowe lost his life in an avalanche on Tibet’s Shishapangma, leaving behind his wife Jennifer and three sons. In the months that followed this devastating tragedy, Jennifer and Alex’s climbing partner Conrad Anker, who survived the avalanche that killed Alex, found solace in each other and were married in 2001. Now, Jennifer Lowe-Anker’s new book Forget Me Not, A Memoir, offers a portrait of Alex Lowe through letters and expedition notes, spanning continents to tell the story of three people whose lives intertwine to a degree they could never have imagined." (link)

I devoured this book!! I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone. It was a nice read, and it surprisingly did not make me cry as much as I was afraid it would (Maria Coffey's Where the Mountain Cast Its Shadow made me pretty much cry through the entire book). Very interesting, touching story. I really enjoyed hearing about how she and Alex met, fell in love, all of the adventures they shared together, and how she handled her life while her husband was away doing what he loved while she continued to do what she loved (she is an accomplished artist). It was also fun to find some similarities between herself and I, on personal life experiences we have both had. It was sad knowing how he died and how hard it must have been for her to break the news to her children, that part really got to me, along with all of the other loss she has had to bear. Overall I think it shows just how strong of a woman Lowe-Anker is - how she lost her true love but was able to keep going forward and putting one foot in front of the other and was able to find love again. Great story, you should really check it out!

Here is an interview clip:



Whats next? Not sure. I have several books I would like to read: The Songlines, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time, The Namesake, and Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living. Not sure which one will come first....any other recommendations out there?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Scientists find 245 million-year-old burrows of land vertebrates in Antarctica

Transantarctic Vertebrate Paleontology Project Member Chris Sidor will have the 'cover article' in the months Journal Of Vertebrate Paleontology "Tetrapod burrows from the Triassic of Antarctica" (pages 277-284). You can read more about Dr. Sidor's work in Antarctica here.

From the press release:


For the first time paleontologists have found fossilized burrows of tetrapods – any land vertebrates with four legs or leglike appendages – in Antarctica dating from the Early Triassic epoch, about 245 million years ago.


The fossils were created when fine sand from an overflowing river poured into the animals' burrows and hardened into casts of the open spaces. The largest preserved piece is about 14 inches long, 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep. No animal remains were found inside the burrow casts, but the hardened sediment in each burrow preserved a track made as the animals entered and exited.


In addition, scratch marks from the animals' initial excavation were apparent in some places, said Christian Sidor, a University of Washington assistant professor of biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the UW.


"We've got good evidence that these burrows were made by land-dwelling animals rather than crayfish," said Sidor, who is lead author of a paper describing the find, which is being published in the June edition of The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


Co-authors are Molly Miller, a geology professor at Vanderbilt University, and John Isbell, a geosciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Fossils of tetrapod bones from later in the Triassic period have been found in a section of Antarctica called Victoria Land, but the fossil burrows predate those bone fossils by at least 15 million years, Sidor said.


The fossilized burrows were collected in 2003 and 2005-06 from the Fremouw Formation at Wahl Glacier and from the Lashly Formation at Allan Hills, both toward the outer edges of Antarctica.


Despite the absence of fossil bones, the burrows' relatively small size prompted Sidor to speculate that their owners might have been small lizardlike reptiles called Procolophonids or an early mammal relative called Thrinaxodon.


Burrows, some containing tetrapod bones, have previously been excavated in South Africa, which is considered to be perhaps the world's richest fossil depository, and those burrows are nearly identical to the fossils unearthed in Antarctica. During the Triassic period, Antarctica and South Africa were connected as part of a supercontinent called Pangea.


Because even at that time Antarctica was substantially colder than South Africa, and because sea levels likely were higher than today, it is much rarer to find fossils there that date from as far back as the Early Triassic.


"Everywhere has a spotty fossil record, but Antarctica has an extremely spotty fossil record because it is difficult finding exposed rocks amid all the ice," Sidor said.


At the time the burrows were dug, Antarctica would have been ice free. However temperatures still would have been quite cold, since both areas where the burrows were found are within the Antarctic Circle and so experience at least one day a year of complete darkness.


"We have documented that tetrapods were burrowing, making dens in Antarctica, back in the Triassic," Sidor said. "There are lots of good reasons for burrowing at high latitudes, not the least of which is protection from the elements."


Also see "New Fossils Suggest Ancient Cat-sized Reptiles in Antarctica"

Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm back....for a moment

I am back from the badlands and I hope to be able to fill you in on all of it as soon as I am caught up. Things are a bit wild right now as I am continuing my gypsy existence for another week and a half or so.

There is a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood
And they climb the mountain's crest.
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood
And they don't know how to rest.
- Robert Service